How rude can people be!!
Whenever I’m out with my dogs, I make a point of calling out a cheery hello to anyone that I meet. Okay slight exaggeration if anyone was walking round wielding a gun or a machete, I would think twice!
As my dogs’ pack leader I want to give them reassurance that I’ve clocked the oncoming person and they are not a threat. One of my dogs is particular protective and it can be the easiest way to avert unwanted canine behaviour and excessive barking!
Putting my dogs to one side, my other motive is that I genuinely believe it is a nice way to start the day to greet strangers with a warm hello and a grin. I know how good it feels when others take the initiative.
As I often meet fellow dog owners, we may also exchange a few words about our beloved 4 paw families (not so different from the school playground!).
This week I clambered on to my soapbox on this very topic. Why?
Because the first three people I passed on this week couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge my greeting.
One of them was already suffering from ‘glueearphone’ but the symptoms don’t prevent at least a nod! BTW none of them had noise cancelling headphones on just in case you were wondering!
I took to FB and within a few hours had received 50 ‘likes’ and 30+ comments. It was interesting to read the comments and the lovely cheery hello greetings and emoticons from my FB friends.
Several commented on how much more genial they find strangers abroad, others were keen to point out that it was effectively the other person’s issue not mine. All of which were lovely comments and I’m very appreciative, so why am I still talking about it?
Surely my ruffled feathers should have been smoothed? Well they were on a personal level as soon as I met a fourth person on Thursday who called out a cheery hello as she was running with her chocolate labrador. However, I felt compelled to put fingers to keyboard, for three primary reasons:
1. This week I’ve felt disillusioned with the world.
I find any terrorism atrocity very unsettling. I very much doubt that I’m alone. Life becomes unsettled . We feel threatened, insecure and angry.
BBC Radio 5 Live, my station of choice in the car, carried almost non-stop coverage from Tuesday morning until Wednesday evening. In turn I feel compelled to listen at every opportunity and to keep track of online news bulletins.
I’m not sure if it’s my way of trying to share some of the pain or perhaps it’s a form of a remote type of survivors’ guilt? Perhaps any psychologists reading this post can explain this one?
The tragic events in Brussels make normal life seem superfluous. It feels surreal to simply be carrying on while such tragic events unfold.
However, carrying on as though our lives have not been interrupted is precisely what we should do in the face of terrorism. We need to show to the perpetrators that their cowardly attacks and bullying tactics are not affecting us.
To me it seemed more important than ever this week to greet strangers with a cheery hello as a way of showing solidarity with those whose lives had been impacted.
Defiance in the face of adversity.
2. A photo that sparked a viral reaction on social media
Kelsey Harmon went to have dinner with her grandfather on Thursday.
Five of her cousins were invited, but she was the only one who showed up.
Harmon tweeted a picture of her grandpa sadly eating one of the 12 burgers he prepared for his six grandchildren. The tweet had been re-tweeted almost 140,000 times within 24 hours.
Anyone who didn’t feel saddened by the image of the old man sitting despondently with hunched shoulders munching on a burger would have needed a heart of stone.
Now flip that to the other end of the adult age spectrum.
We tend to presume that loneliness is associated with old age. A report published today by Acevo*, a charity network dismissed this misconception.
The report cites that young Londoners are twice as likely to be lonely as their counterparts elsewhere in the country.
Aged 18-24 these are people whose lives are going through a big transitional stage.
Young people may be leaving home for the first time, studying hard, establishing a career, facing uncertainty about getting job.
In London a culture of long working hours, a lack of local community and high housing costs are some of the reasons the report gives for increased loneliness.
3. An event I attended this week
I’d been invited to speak at an event to mark International Women’s Day in March. The organizers nominated a local women’s refuge to benefit from the money we raised.
The first speaker was the manager of the local refuge. She told us about the valuable service the refuge offers to vulnerable women and children. The refuge provides not simply crisis support but an extended outreach program that women can use without the move into a refuge.
The statistics for domestic abuse are horrific. On average two women are murdered every week in the UK.
Domestic abuse accounts for 16% of all violent crime (Source: Crime in England and Wales 04/05 report), however it is still the violent crime least likely to be reported to the police. Domestic abuse has more repeat victims than any other crime (on average there will have been 35 assaults before a victim calls the police)
Domestic abuse is the single most quoted reason for becoming homeless (Shelter, 2002)
There is an assumption that domestic abuse only happens in poor inner city areas. This is an urban myth. Domestic abuse is not discriminatory. It transcends class, age, profession, and educational background. Domestic abuse has no geographical boundaries.
I’m not suggesting saying that a cheery hello to a stranger on the street or on an early morning dog walk can stop domestic abuse, loneliness or or prevent terrorism. The point I’m making is that you don’t know what someone else is going through.
A cheery hello may offer someone the encouragement they need to help get through their day or even the next few hours if they are having a tough time for whatever reason. Even if your life is not going through any traumas the simple act of a smile costs nothing and may just offer someone a ‘feel good factor’. You will also feel uplifted by the response you receive, a shy grin, a quick chat or a warm reciprocal smile.
The simple quote below from Robert Ingersoll for me sums up the importance of simple gestures of kindness.
I’d love to get your comments and to ask you to share on social media. Let’s raise awareness and see what response we receive that would be awesome!